Kasey Kahne can't second-guess staying out
May 27, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
CONCORD, N.C. – Kasey Kahne wasn’t involved in “cable-gate,” he successfully avoided the numerous skirmishes that felled others, and he had perhaps the fastest car on the track.
But it all came unraveled for the Hendrick Motorsports driver when the caution flag flew for the 11th time during Sunday night’s running of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Kahne, who led eight times for a race-high 161 laps, opted not to pit with less than 15 laps remaining, then watched in his rear-view mirror as the bulk of the field peeled off and hit pit road for a final time.
On the ensuing restart, Kevin Harvick, who had taken two tires and returned to the track in second, bolted past Kahne and raced away for the win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ longest event.
“We had a great car the whole race,” said Kahne, who came home second and moved from sixth to fifth in the points battle. “Everything was solid. Just the final restart I was on hot tires there; actually it was pretty close. Going into Turn 1, we were equal, but (Harvick) could run flat through there and I had to lift because I got a little crossed up and just lifted out of the gas.
“It was over after that. He was quicker from that point on. I think we probably had 20-25 laps on our tires.”
A three-time winner of the 600, Kahne was strong throughout the event, wheeling his car to the front in the sunlight early and again long after darkness had fallen.
Occasional problems on restarts were a concern, but by the time the race was winding toward its conclusion, he said he felt that issue was a non-factor.
“It was just when I restarted second,” he said. “Whenever I started second on the inside I just could not get through second gear. Third and fourth (gears) I was fine, but second I could just not figure it out.
“There were maybe two or three restarts that it was like that. The other ones I was fine … it was a struggle; it wasn’t what I wanted for sure.”
Crew chief Kenny Francis said it wasn’t a difficult decision to stay out during the final caution. Afterward, he said he still had no regrets.
“If we would have pitted,” he said, “I think some guys would have stayed out. I was just surprised that some of those guys that had just pitted earlier didn’t stay out. I was pretty shocked about that.”
A delay of nearly 30 minutes, the result of a TV camera cable that fell across the track and damaged several cars when it was run over, wasn’t an issue for his team, Francis said, but changes in the track during the break necessitated a few minor adjustments.
“It seemed like the track changed a little, and we had to tinker with it a little bit,” he said.
Harvick was second when he hit pit road, and second when the green flag reappeared. Ryan Newman also maintained his third-place position after ducking onto pit road.
Kurt Busch, who restarted sixth, shot past Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin and Newman to finish third, behind Harvick and Kahne.
“It was disappointing,” Kahne said. “Looking back, you wish you would have pitted, but then … some of the guys may stay out and who knows how that turns out?
“It was the call we chose, and it just didn’t work out for us tonight.”
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